Saturday, December 20, 2008

Joann Garrett: Foolish Me (Chess)

Another pearl from the Windy City. Written by Billy Butler and Andre Williams, it is the indemand track included in Joann's album "Just A Taste" that was issued in 1969 by the legendary Chess label. Superb vocals delivered by a great soulstress.

The Eliminators: Loving Explosion (Brc)

The title track of the only album made by the band, a high school group who re-united years later in a studio to cut this stunning funk & soul LP. An irresistible groove led by guitar and horns, with female backing vocals resulting in a perfect mixture.

Mike James Kirkland: Give It To Me (Bryan)

From his highly rated (and ultra rare) first album "Hang On In There", this 45 epitomises crossover soul. Mike James Kirkland was born in Yazoo City, MS, but eventually went to California where, with his brother, started Bryan Records to release his stuff.

Cecil Shaw: This I've Gotta See (Bil-Mar)

A super soulful number from a pretty well known artist, that started his career touring with Ray Charles and appeared on Soul Train in 1974. Bil-Mar was distributed by T.K. Records. Play it loud in your Sunday afternoon soul sessions.

Mahdi & Tracy Kerr: Who Are You (Indy 5)

George Kerr should not be a surprise for soul collectors being a famous producer, writer and singer (if you want to discover more, refer to the excellent article in issue 7 of There's That Beat! magazine). This duet is set at a slow pace but quality wise is really good. The flip is brilliant too.

Strutt: Funky Sign (Brunswick)

The Strutt were a group of 6 musicians and 2 male vocalists, all hailing from New Jersey. This is the only record they made and contains the classic crossover sound "Said You Didn't Love Him". The selected track is pretty exciting too, with its funkish guitar intro that set the rythm followed by the vibrant lead vocals of Dickie Harman. The band leader, guitarist Carmen Cosentino, was of Italian origin.

Freddie James: In Love For The First Time (Black Sun)

From the cold land of Canada a sweet soul masterpiece by a very young soul boy. The album was produced by Tony Green and recorded and mixed in 1981 between Philadelphia and Montreal. Freddie James was born in Chicago but moved to a small town North of Montreal with his family.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sly, Slick & Wicked: Ready For You (People)

A highly collectable double-sider, written by Jimmy Norman and produced by James Brown. The band formed in Cleveland, Ohio in early 1970. In 1973 they signed for People, a division of Polydor owned by the Godfather of Soul, and recorded this 45. The other side, "Sho' Nuff", reached a decent success.

Wendell Watts: You Girl (Ref-O-Ree)

A record reminiscent of Soul Inc. Pyramid, spun heavily by Dave Flynn at the Capitol Soul Club. The label is definitely Southern but the production is a Northern affair, with plenty of silky strings. Bob Holmes and Ted Jarrett at their best.

Harold Curington: One Day Girl (Tad)

Brilliant midtempo group harmony from the Windy City. This was raved by Brian Goucher in the glorious pages of Derek Pearson's Shades of Soul some years ago. A typical Yarmouth sound, dominated by drums and a light organ.

Our Ladies Of Soul: Let's Groove Together (Kelton)

Theresa Davis, that later joined the Emotions and recorded three albums with them on Stax, was a member of the group. The Single was quite popular in the Chicago area. As far as I know it is the only 45 by these ladies. Nice crossover soul.

Grover Mitchell: What Hurts (Vanguard)

Recorded in Philly at the end of his career, this magic slice of soul harmony was issued in 1976 by New York based Vanguard. It should be featured in the forthcoming Kent CD "Modern Soul Monsters Vol. 2" so demand will definitely increase.

Viola Wills: I've Got News For You (Supreme)

Viola Mae Wilkerson, a.k.a. Viola Wills, started her career in Los Angeles, where she was discovered by Barry White. This 45 was produced by James Gadson, her songwriter partner from the early days, and is a very urgent tune, with fine guitar and horns. A semi-known funky soul gem.

Mighty Pope: If You Want A Love Affair (Rca Victor)

Another Canadian soul gem, this time on the mighty Rca imprint. Somebody prefer it to Jesse James' version but in my humble opinion both are equally good. Earl Heedram, Mighty Pope's real name, was born in Jamaica.

Leon Debouse: Every Fellas Girl (Bold)

From an extremely rare album issued in 1977 by a TK distributed label, a very enjoyable song that was presented for the first time to the masses by Ralph Tee on Soul Togetherness 2000. And also the rest of the LP isn't bad at all!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bobby Taylor: Don't Be Afraid (Gordy)

Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers were a Canadian soul act. They signed for Berry Gordy in 1967 and the following year they issued their debut single. In 1968 Bobby Taylor went solo and published this excellent album that contains also the magic "Oh, I've Been Bless'd".

Gladys Knight & The Pips: It Takes A Whole Lotta Man For A Woman Like Me (Soul)

They need no introduction as we are dealing with the giants of our music. This family band had several hits from the very beginnig of their career. The album is well known for the monster "No One Could Love You More" but the outstanding track is the first on side two, a spine-tangling soulful number.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

TSU Toronados: Please Heart Don't Break (Rampart Street)

And now from Houston, Texas the TSU Toronados! The last single of this fabulous band was issued after they split in two separate groups following Ovide Records closure in 1971. A small quantity of the records were pressed up but soon, due to rights problems, the single was withdrawn from the market and the tracks were never published. For those who want to know more, there is a great CD by these lads on Funky Delicacies.

The Winstons: Ain't Nothing Like A Little Lovin' (Curtom)

Originally from Washington, D.C., the Winstons had one single only on Curtom. Both sides are equally good even if this is the one who got more spins in recent times. Late sixties soul at its best with that Impressions touch all the way through. Later the Winstons had a huge hit with the classic "Color Him Father" on Metromedia.

Penny: Now That I Found You (Kelton)

Written and produced by Detroit legend Don Mancha on a Chicago label, what a nice midtempo is this. Apparently Penny was a member of the girl group Our Ladies Of Soul who had a nice 45 on Kelton called "Let's Groove Together" (a future post?). Another one that should be played more!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

True Reflection: That's Where I'm Coming From (Atco)

With a melody reminescent of Jr walker's all-time classic "What Does It Take", this joyous dancer was recorded at the celebrated Sigma Sound Studios, Philadelphia. Luxury 70s soul on a major label that could be a floorfiller in northern rooms too.

Lew Kirton: Something Special (Alston)

Lew Kirton originally hails from Barbados, West Indies. He played the drums with Sam & Dave and in 1972 joined the Invitations. Northern Soul fans know him for the classic "Heaven In The Afternoon". This album came out later, in 1980, and was produced by Clarence Reid and Freddy Stonewall. A cool T.K. production made precious by Lew's deep vocals.

Ebony Jam: Ride On (Amos)

Funky soul tunes seem to be en vogue between the more open minded rare soul fanatics. A perfect example is this bongo driven instrumental (the flip is the vocal version but I prefer this one), with horns and strings here and there. Amos Records was founded in 1968 in Los Angeles by Jimmy Bowen, a veteran of the music business.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Lovelites: Certain Kind Of Lover/I Love You (Yes I Do) (Uni)

It took me a while to find a decent copy of this LP but it was worth the long wait. Produced by Clarence Johnson and Johnny Cameron, the album was recorded in Chicago on a well known California-based label, part of MCA records. Clarence Johnson cited the group as the best he had ever work with, their principal talent being Patti Hamilton. If you are into midtempo crossover, this is the Holy Grail. For Chicago soul lovers, "Certain Kind Of Lover" was written by Eugene Record (check also Diane Cunningham's superb version on Fontana).

The Jaedes: Uh, Uh, What Did I Do/Big Surprise (Athena)

A great album recommended by my dear friend Simone Ceccarelli from Gambettola Soul City. This quintet from Alabama delivers us a refreshing sound, with fabulous harmonies and subtle arrangements. The whole track list is brilliant from start to the end, mixing together covers and originals written by Fredrick Blackmon. Another case of unrecognised talent.

The Ethics: I Want My Baby Back (Vent)

Big demand for this excellent crossover. The Ethics are one of the great vocal groups of the 60s that did not reach the success they deserved. They worked with Vince Montana and Thom Bell, the cream of the Philly scene. 1969 should have been a very interesting year on the soul side.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Soul Children: We're Gettin' Too Close (Stax)

Rated by connoisseurs as one of the best soul albums ever made, it is a privilege to own a copy of this masterpiece. Written and produced by Homer Banks and Carl Hampton, 'We're Gettin' Too Close' is the side popular between soul club goers. The band formed in Memphis at the end of the 60s under the supervision of Isaac Hayes and David Porter.

Mavis Staples: It Makes Me Wanna Cry (Volt)

The excepional lead voice of the Staple Singers from her second album, issued in 1970 by Volt. Produced by Detroit legend Don Davis and arranged by Horace Ott, it is a fine collection of orchestrated ballads about loneliness and desperation. Deep soul and then some!

The Pretenders: It's Everything About You (Carnival)

A re-make of a recent Northern biggie by Lee Williams & The Cymbals, issued on the same label. The Pretenders line-up was composed of a female and three male singers. For those who want to know more, Joe Evans musical talent was deeply investigated by Kent some years ago.

The Malibus: Ten Times A Day (Sure-Shot)

Famous for the classic "Gee Baby (I Love You)", the Malibus had other 3 singles on Don Robey's Sure-Shot. This is the last one and is a catchy midtempo that grows on you. Another fine piece of vinyl worth your attention is "I Can't Stand It" on sister label Duke.

Ronnie McCain: This Time I'm Gone (Triode)

I know nothing about this 45 except the fact it is a gorgeous crossover. I purchased my copy at Soul Essence some years ago and left it laying in my collection until few weeks ago, when I saw it in a playlist. What a shame, let me say, as it is really good! Triode is a highly collectable New York label.

Little Beaver: Listen To My Heart Beat (Cat)

Taken from the 1975 album 'When Was The Last Time' on the Cat label, an associate of the giant T.K. Records, this is the standout track that made it to 45 to promote the LP. A super funky guitar leads this dancefloor friendly record, written by Milton Wright. Demand made the price rise up in recent times.

Ann Sexton: I Had A Fight With Love (Sound Stage 7)

I had the pleasure to meet this lovely lady in 2007 at the Baltic Soul Weeekender. An extraordinary singer, with a rooster of 24-karat gems in her repertoire. Her second album was recorded in Muscle Shoals and Nashville and is a superb example of 70s Southern Soul. The up-tempo opening track is simply fantastic!

The Coasters: Love Is A Funny Thing (Salsa Picante)

The Coasters started their career in the 50s in Los Angeles and continued successfully for several years. This album saw the light of day in 1979 and was arranged and produced by Bobby Sheen. The chosen track is a very soulful slow number, written by guitarist Jimmy Nunya. A popular spin in rare soul circles.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lavern Baker: Nothing Like Being In Love (Brunswick)

The other side "Wrapped, Tied And Tangled" is one of my all time favourite records. This comes from 1966 and was written by Karl Tarleton, probably the most underrated composers of the Brunswick/Dakar labels. Two minutes of great soul music driven by the throaty vocals of Lavern, who's career was relaunched in Chicago.

Beloyd: Today All Day (20th Century)

Another great flip side! Beloyd was the guitarist in legendary Funk group S.O.U.L. (Sounds of Unity and Love), who released two albums and several singles in the early 70s. After leaving the band, Beloyd spent some time writing for Earth, Wind and Fire and playing for Donald Byrd and Gary Bartz. This is the only record he made as solist in 1977, a double-sider of gigantic proportions!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The O'Jays: Crossroads Of Life (Little Star)

Right before moving to Philadelphia, the O'Jays made this incredible LP for Little Star records in California, working with the great H.B. Barnum. The result is one of the best soul album of all times: inspired songs, soulful vocals, superb arrangements, everything is in the right place here. The album was reissued by Trip with a slightly different cover (by the way, the pictures of the gangster girls on the front and back covers are super groovy!!!).

The Whispers: Where There Is Love (Janus)

If you like the Philly sound, this masterpiece of a record is surely already part of your collection. Recorded at legendary Sigma Sound Studios and mastered by Frankword/Wayne Recording Labs, it is one of the best offering of the period. The Whispers formed in 1964 in Los Angeles and had a long and successful career.

Sidney Joe Qualls: The Next Time I Fall In Love (Dakar)

Sidney was born in Arkansas but moved to Chicago in the early 70s. He was considered a follower of Al Green, due to his vocal style. All the album is great so it is very hard to pick up a specific tune. Anyway, as sampler, we choose this modern soul classic that did not see the light of day on the small format. Another unbelievable Carl Davis production!

The Paramount Four: You Don't Know (Southern City)

A killer tune coming from the deep South (Gallatin, Tennessee). This was raved by Ian Levine some years ago even if it remains quite obscure. With a strong rhythmic section thanks to the Solid Dukes (the bass line makes me crazy!) , it is a solid dancer set at a fast pace. The vocal harmonies are also very good.

The Fabulous Dimensions: I Can't Take It, Baby (Sapphire)

From Chicago, a traditionl Northern sound that was tipped by Mark Bicknell in Manifesto ages ago. The song is a solid mover, with the brass section and the guitar supporting the lead and backing vocals. Another underplayed record that is waiting for a greater exposure.

Little Hank: Try To Understand (Sound Stage 7)

A record that was ahead of its time. It was issued in 1964 but it sounds like it was made five years later. Little Hank had another record on Sound Stage 7, the club classic "Mister Bang Bang Man", but this perfect beat ballad is the side to have.

Shirley Wahls: Because I Love You (Calla)

More great music from Chicago this time thanks to a marvellous songstress. Shirley Wahls recorded for Smash, Giant, Blue Rock, King and Calla and worked with soul giants like Willie Henderson and Joshie Armstead. As John Manship states "one of the rarest 45s on this highly-respected label". A 1967 Bill Sheppard production.

Imperial Wonders: Just A Dream (Day-Wood)

The Imperial Wonders were from Cleveland, Ohio. This "dreamy" 45 came out in 1968 and was the first published by the band. It was arranged by one of the true soul hero, Lou Ragland, another native of Cleveland, and is very popular right now.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

James Phelps: Don't Be A Cry Baby (Fontana)

The Windy City was one of the most important soul centres of the golden era. James recorded this finger-clicking midtempo in Chicago in 1967, after he left the Chess group of labels.

Kent Drake: Boss Thing Together (Wand)

Produced by Gene Chandler and recorded in 1972 in Chicago, it was issued by one of the greatest NYC soul labels, the legendary Wand Records. Silky soul with plenty of strings and female backing vocals.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Fifth Avenue Band: One Way Or The Other (Reprise)

I found this 45 a couple of years ago in a US store for a mere $4, having heard it spun by Keith Money, one of my favourite DJs. They are a white band but this is an absolutely brilliant soul record. Pure class!

El Shobey & Co.: Never Missed What You Got (Shout)

Another crossover gem, this time from New York, with a super catchy groove. This has a lot of potential but did not reach the masses yet. It was issued in 1972 on the mighty Shout label. In the past it got several spins at Italian soul events.

The Triplett Twins: From The Rooter To The Tooter (Jay Pee)

Deep funk fanatics should go crazy for this! Leon and Levi Triplett were from South Side Chicago. Recently CDbaby issued a CD with the classic 70s recording "Get It". By the way, another wonderful label design, methinks.

The Lovations: Later Baby (Cap City)

Ladies and gentlemen, from Washington, DC the lovely Lovations! I discovered this record years ago thanks to a tape I received from soul connoisseur Dave Ripolles. A frantic crossover sound that should be a monster between funky soul lovers.